“I saw—something. It was monstrous. It wasn’t human. It wasn’t an animal, either…”
Director: Herb Wallerstein
Starring: Bo Svenson, Robert Logan, Yvette Mimieux, Sylvia Sidney, Clint Walker, Thomas Babson, Jacquie Botts, Annie McEnroe, Kathy Christopher, Michael J. London
Screenplay: Joseph Stefano
Synopsis: As two young women ski near at a resort in Colorado, one of them, Heidi (Annie McEnroe), suddenly becomes convinced that something is wrong, and urges that they both return to the lodge. Her friend, Jennifer (Kathy Christopher), is dismissive of Heidi’s fears, and remains so even when the two discover strange footprints in the snow, dismissing them as the work of pranksters. When a roaring noise comes from nearby, Heidi does not hesitate, but skis off down the slope. Jennifer remains behind, staring in a puzzled way into a clump of trees—and then screaming in horror at what emerges from it… At the Rill Lodge, its owner, Carrie Rill (Sylvia Sidney), welcomes her guests to the annual Winter Carnival: a more than usually special event this year, as it is the 50th anniversary of the first carnival, at which Carrie herself was crowned “Snow Queen”. As she speaks, this year’s Snow Queen, a local teenager named Bobby Jo Blodgett (Jacquie Botts), arrives to the cheers of the gathered visitors. “Buster” Smith (Thomas Babson), a member of the Lodge’s ski patrol, pulls up on a snowmobile and runs inside, asking urgently for Tony Rill (Robert Logan), the manager of the Lodge, with whom he requests a private word. As a result of the conversation, Tony allows Buster to drive him out to one of the patrol’s cabins, where an hysterical Heidi is insisting that her friend was killed by a monster. Although he does not believe her, Tony accepts that Jennifer is missing, and may be hurt. He tries to persuade Heidi to help with the search, but she is adamant in her refusal to go back out on the slopes. Tony orders Buster to take Heidi to his grandmother at the main lodge, and to keep her from repeating her story to anyone else. Then, following Heidi’s garbled directions, he leads the other rangers in a search for Jennifer. The searchers split up to cover more ground; and Tony is alone when he discovers, not Jennifer’s body, but her skis and a piece of her jacket, torn to pieces and covered in blood. At that moment there is a roar from close by, and Tony turns quickly enough to catch a glimpse of a huge, fur-covered figure moving through the trees, and walking on two legs… Former Olympic champion Gar Seberg (Bo Svenson) arrives at Rill Lodge with his wife, Ellen (Yvette Mimieux). The two greet Tony eagerly, but he waves them off in a distracted way. Gar takes this personally, and mutters that it was a mistake to come. Meanwhile, Tony is telling his grandmother what he saw. She is sceptical of his story, and annoyed with him for proposing to tell the sheriff. Tony tries to convince her that the carnival must be called off, but she flatly refuses. She does, however, agree that the area where Jennifer disappeared should be cordoned off. On his way out, Tony stops to greet Gar and Ellen properly, apologising that he cannot stop, and asking them to meet him for drinks later on. As he turns away, Gar blurts that he needs a job; and after a glance at Ellen, Tony tells him simply that he has one. Out at the cabin, Tony is met by Buster, who speaks eagerly of continuing the search. Unhappy with himself for agreeing to stay silent, Tony is short with him, cutting him off abruptly when he asks too many questions for Tony’s liking. Dissatisfied, Buster decides to go against orders and search for Jennifer anyway. As he does, he slips over the edge of a sharp slope. With a great effort, he manages to stop himself sliding down, and finally drags himself back up to the edge—where he can only stare in helpless horror at what is reaching down for him…
Comments: There are few things I enjoy more than a really odd Jaws rip-off; and one of the oddest of all is Snowbeast, which packs up all of our beloved clichés and transports them to a ski lodge in Colorado. Of course, when I say that Snowbeast is a rip-off of Jaws, what I really mean is that it’s a rip-off of Grizzly. Indeed, there are moments in this film when it copies its immediate model so slavishly that I began to doubt whether its maker actually realised that they were really ripping off Jaws…only then the film produced a “Little Shark” scene, which Grizzly doesn’t have, and laid my doubts to rest.
Remember when ‘full screen’ was a selling point??
Snowbeast is a film that carries with it fond memories from my childhood. In fact, although my memory has since conflated the events, I must have seen it twice back then, the two viewings separated by some years. I know that the first time I saw it, I wouldn’t have been in a position to recognise the Jaws tropes for what they were. What I remember about that viewing, which must surely have been on Channel 7’s Creature Feature, is that every time we went to an ad-break, along with the fade to red that is built into the film we got a distorted graphic and the Channel 7 voiceover guy thundering, “The SNOWBEAST!…the SNOWBEAST!…the SNOWBEAST!” The first time around, it was that which made me giggle. On my second viewing, though, it was Carrie Rill and her refusal to close the lodge – “We need this carnival! The whole town needs it!” – that had me rolling in the aisles.
The 1970s truly were The Decade Of The Hominid. Bigfoot and his European cousin, the Yeti, and their other cousins, the ones they don’t talk about (you know…the Southern ones), were everywhere, starring in movies, featuring in documentaries, and racking up the big bucks via the souvenir industry.
(Here’s another childhood memory: as an end-of-school-year treat, my classmates and I were taken on an excursion to a screening of The Mysterious Monsters. Those were the days, when Peter Graves-narrated crypto-zoology could get a cinema release…)
Voicing any doubt of the existence of hominids back then was the height of bad manners, and – in-film, at least – usually punishable by some salutary arm-, or in some cases, genital-ripping. As for Snowbeast, it signalled the gravity of its intentions by hiring as a consultant no less than Roger Patterson himself…which is possibly why the film’s hominid spends most of its time lurking in the distance amongst the trees and never quite comes clearly into frame.
“….the SNOWBEAST!….the SNOWBEAST!….the SNOWBEAST!….the SNOWBEAST!….the SNOWBEAST!….the SNOWBEAST!….the SNOWBEAST!….the SNOWBEAST!….the SNOWBEAST!….the SNOWBEAST!….”
Seriously, folks, if you took all the shots of the Snowbeast in Snowbeast and stuck them end-to-end, it probably wouldn’t add up to the Patterson-Gimlin footage. In fact, as I watched this movie I posed myself a challenge, namely, to see exactly what percentage of the Snowbeast material in this film I could include in this review by way of screenshots—and it’s close enough to 100% to make you cry.
Going to the other extreme is the film’s use of its setting, with numerous long, slow panning shots of the snow-covered mountains and forests, and sequences involving skiing, snowmobiling and walking (on foot or on skis) that are all dragged out well past their necessary length—and this in a film only 86 minutes long!
Of course, Snowbeast wasn’t the first made-for-TV movie to resort to shameless padding to reach its desired running-time, and nor would it be it the last; but somehow its endless minutes of people gliding, or motoring, or just plain slogging through the ice are harder for me to take than most other aimless wandering I’ve suffered through over the years; possibly because I don’t like the cold and have no taste for winter sports, unless you classify huddling in front of a fire with a book and a drink and shaking my head in mystification at all the people who choose to be outside as a winter sport.
That said, you can’t help but admire the fortitude of the cast. Snowbeast was shot on location in and around the Crested Butte Ski Resort in Colorado, and the extreme discomfort of the actors as they go through their paces rugged up in jackets and scarves and gloves and waterproof pants, standing up to their knees in the genuine frozen article while they exchange foggy-breathed conversation, is patent.
What I wouldn’t give right now for some scuba-diving. Or rock-climbing. Or even a sandstorm…
Indeed, at one point Sylvia Sidney is so swathed in protective gear, we can hardly see her, but rather have to take it for granted that she’s in there somewhere. However, slender as she always was, and frail as she came to look, Ms Sidney was not just a trouper but One Tough Old Broad to boot; and she proves it indisputably here as she takes her chilly lumps along with her co-stars, more than a decade before her adoption by Tim Burton saw her doing things on-screen in her twilight years that you can only blink at in disbelief.
And, all-in-all, Snowbeast isn’t such a bad little film, in spite of its padding and its distinct lack of hominid. If I say it’s a typical 70s made-for-TV movie, I imagine most of you out there will get a clear enough mental picture of it. There were professionals behind the camera, and it shows. The film was directed by Herb Wallerstein, probably best known for his episodes of Star Trek, which truly do span the spectrum – The Tholian Web to Turnabout Intruder – and, perhaps more intriguingly, written by Joseph Stefano. For a film about a killer hominid, there’s precious little drama and still less horror in Snowbeast. There is, however, plenty of talk; and we can thank Stefano for the fact that if the character stuff here is hardly dazzling in its originality, it’s painless at worst and at times even pleasing.
(Before we leave the subject, let us not forget that Joseph Stefano, too, wrote for Star Trek: the TNG episode Skin Of Evil. [That’s right: the killer oil slick.])
Snowbeast opens with a Grizzly riff so blatant, it makes me chuckle with evil glee. In place of the earlier film’s Margaret and June, aka “Red-Shirt” and “Pink-Shirt”, we get Heidi and Jennifer, aka “Green-Jacket” and “Orange-Jacket”. The two are skiing – and skiing – and skiing – and as they do, they are watched by a Snuffling POV Shot, which lurks amongst the trees, and whose height varies wildly from shot to shot. We get our first (partial) Snowbeast sighting here, as a hairy arm reaches into frame and – rather unnecessarily, it must be said – pulls aside some thin dead branches to get a better look at the girls.
“First time I’ve been warm during the entire shoot!”
For no particular reason, Green-Jacket pulls Orange-Jacket up and declares plaintively that she wants to go back to the Lodge, because, “There’s something funny.” As always, these two best friends are complete opposites temperamentally, and Orange-Jacket laughingly dismisses Green-Jacket’s fears. The two ski on – and on – and yet when they stop again, the Snuffling POV Shot, which is here almost as high as the surrounding pine trees, is right on their heels. Off-Screen Teleportation? You betcha! The increasingly nervous Green-Jacket then points out some huge footprints in the snow, which Orange-Jacket also laughingly dismisses.
At that moment, there is a roar from nearby. Green-Jacket, displaying remarkable common sense, if not, perhaps, all that much backbone, takes off without another word. Orange-Jacket stares after her, then stares at the trees just up the slope, and continues to stare and stare as the Snuffling POV Shot draws ever closer. The equivalent moment in Grizzly was, of course, highlighted by some pretty graphic violence, but if the amount of padding to be found within its first three minutes weren’t sufficient to remind us that we are indeed watching a made-for-TV movie here, then the discreet cut from Orange-Jacket’s horrified face as the POV shot closes in to Green-Jacket’s horrified face as her friend’s scream echoes across the slopes is.
And then it’s time for some character scenes. Sigh. Carrie Rill is welcoming a swarm of guests to Rill Lodge and talking up the 50th Anniversary Winter Carnival. Even as she announces the various events and greets this year’s “Snow Queen”, there is a slight kerfuffle as one of the lodge’s rangers arrives on a snowmobile and dashes inside looking for Tony Rill, Carrie’s grandson and manager of Rill Lodge.
Or at least nominally: one of Snowbeast’s cleverer touches is that Carrie is far from the fluffy little dear she appears to be, but rather zig-zags between Sweet Little Old Lady and Hard-Nosed Businesswoman as circumstances dictate, coolly dangling his (possible) eventual inheritance of the lodge before Tony whenever she needs to force his cooperation with anything.
In a nice piece of economy, we don’t hear the conversation between Tony and the ranger, Buster Smith; we simply watch the two of them hurrying away and heading cross-country on a snowmobile. They end up at a cabin from which, presumably, the members of the ski patrol operate. Green-Jacket, or as I should probably call her, given that she gets one major dialogue scene, which is more than her predecessor ever did, Heidi, is huddled on a bench outside. She is on the defensive before Tony even starts talking to her, complaining that she knows he won’t believe her either.
Tony is patient with her to very little effect: she won’t go back out on the slopes, and she can’t describe where she and Ora—oh, okay, Jennifer, were; although she does belatedly recall, “An old barn, off by itself”. Tony gives Buster the job of taking her back in – and keeping her quiet – while he and the other rangers go out to search.
(Heidi, by the way, is played by Annie McEnroe in her film debut—and she is irritating as all-get-out. Fortunately, this is the last we see of her.)
The searchers separate, and after skiing around to no particular purpose, it seems, and at quite some length, Tony stumbles over Jennifer’s ski-gear and her jacket, which is torn and bloody. Even as he gazes at it in dismay, Tony hears a roar and whips around to see something indeterminate, which scoots itself out of sight a fraction of a second later. Cynics might call this the most believable Bigfoot sighting in the film.
Back at the lodge, Gar and Ellen Seberg have arrived. Gar is approached by a couple of autograph-hunters, one of whom helpfully exposits about “the ’68 Olympics” and Gar’s gold medals.
“Heidi? Is that you? Or is it a 20-foot-high Snuffling POV Shot?”
(Fun fact—or it was to me: like I say, I’m not much into winter sports, and I didn’t know, or rather remember, that the Winter and Summer Olympics used to be held the same year. So you can picture me puzzling over a mental image of skiing in Mexico City. In 1968 the Winter Olympics were held in Grenoble, France; and all of the skiing gold medals, including the ones supposedly won by Gar, were in fact won by Jean-Claude Killy, a Frenchman.)
Now, Snowbeast would hardly be a proper killer-animal-on-the-rampage film, and certainly not a made-for-TV one, if it wasn’t built around a disenchanted couple who rediscover their love for one another as the bodies pile up around them. Thirty-odd years on, this particular trope has become tiresome in the extreme, but it pretty much works in Snowbeast, chiefly because it has Joseph Stefano to write it, and a couple of old pros like Bo Svenson and Yvette Mimieux to put it over.
The issue, we soon learn, is that after briefly becoming a superstar in 1968, Gar has never adjusted to his 15 minutes being over. Ellen, meanwhile, having married Gar because, “He needed me”, is finding his neediness more than a little exasperating nearly ten years down the track. She is a TV reporter by profession, and spends her life living in the here-and-now, while Gar can’t stop living in the past.
The disconnection between the two of them is neatly conveyed in this scene, as they needle each other in a way that could be passed off as joking, but really isn’t. Thus, when Gar, hearing that the father of one of the autograph-hunters sold the autograph Gar gave him in ’68, asks how much for, Ellen cuts in with a seemingly jocular plea that the kid not say: “Let him keep his illusions!” Gar, on the other hand, correctly interpreting Ellen’s expression in the face of his puppy-dog eagerness to give away his signature, comments lightly, “It’s nice to feel wanted somewhere.”
But Gar’s self-esteem takes another knock inside, when his over-fervent greeting of Tony is brushed aside. Tony has just come in from his discovery of the Snowbeast’s bloody spoor, of course, but Gar doesn’t know that. He instantly curls up like an anemone, muttering about how it was a mistake to come. This provokes a sharp exchange between himself and Ellen, wherein she accuses him of wanting an excuse not to get a job.
Inside, Tony and Carrie are facing off. She believes his story of the thing that, “Wasn’t a man—but wasn’t an animal, either”, but insists he hushes it up. (In a nice touch, she’s not worried about Heidi talking: she knows no-one will believe her.) Tony wants the carnival cancelled, and declares his intention of going to the sheriff and telling him what he saw. Carrie knows her adversary, though, and gets him coming and going, making passing mention of his – future – interest in the lodge, then drawing for him a picture of the sheriff’s likely reaction to such a story.
Seeing Tony’s uncertainty, Carrie presses her advantage by going into her best Larry Vaughn impression, pleading with him to think of the financial consequences of cancelling the carnival: “The whole town needs it!” But unlike Larry Vaughn – to be just to that much-maligned public official – it is amusingly obvious that Carrie’s real concern begins and ends with Rill Lodge, and that “the town” is merely a convenient line of argument likely to work on Tony. Her final shot is to “agree” to Tony’s “suggestion” of cordoning off the area where Jennifer was taken: something Tony actually said would only be of use if they had any reason to suppose that the Snowbeast would stay put there. She then turns big sad eyes on him, saying she hopes she can rely on her grandson…
Game, set, match, Carrie Rill.
Sadly, we get no closer to an actual orgy here than we did in Seven Footprints To Satan.
Thoroughly dissatisfied with himself for his capitulation – as he should be – Tony heads out. He does put aside his bleak mood long enough to greet Gar and Ellen properly, albeit briefly. As he turns away, Gar manages to voice his need of a job; but it is after looking at Ellen that Tony tells him he’s got one. Gar’s immediate reaction is relief, but then, his own eyes resting on Ellen, his expression changes to one of doubt and apprehension.
Outside, Tony calls off the search without giving his subordinates a reason; while his self-disgust makes him react to Buster’s questioning by biting his head off—which in turn leads Buster, himself disgusted by what he takes to be Tony’s callousness, to ignore his orders to stay off the mountain.
Extended skiing follows, until Buster takes a spill and slips off the edge of a sharp drop. He manages to stop himself from sliding down and hauls his way back to the top. Suddenly, there is a roar. Buster only has time for one look up before a huge, hairy hand reaches down for him…
Fade to red.
The next thing we see is what I take to be the maintenance crew ordered out by Tony, who are supposed to be marking the restricted area. Their truck pulls up near what might just be – gasp! – an old barn, off by itself; and as our Snuffling POV Shot stares down the mountainside, a little kid jumps out of the truck and runs into the barn.
“We’re gunna need a bigger ski-pole…”
Now, I’m assuming that in the wake of Jaws and Grizzly (and maybe even Claws), and this being a made-for-TV film, that POV shot is there to reassure us about this particular kid’s fate. And so, instead of having an encounter with the monster himself, this kid merely – merely!? – finds its larder, and re-emerges from the barn white-faced and shocked into silence. His father enters the barn apprehensively, and recoils from the sight of a bloodied arm resting on the remnants of an orange ski-jacket, in a shot that’s about as graphic as we get in this film.
Back at Rill Lodge, the preparations for the carnival are in full swing, and we find Sheriff Paraday (played by “Special Guest Star” Clint Walker, who was in any number of fun little genre films around this time) leaning on his van when Tony drives past, shouting at him that he needs to talk to him. Paraday nods, but is called out to the barn (which we now learn is at “the old Fairchild place”) before Tony gets back to him.
Meanwhile, Carrie hijacks Gar and shows him off to some of the guests, much to his ego’s delight, although he makes a joke out of it; while Ellen and Tony have coffee. Here our emotional undertones are laid out for us; and while the low-key way that this part of the story is handled does have the effect of dissipating any real drama, it’s still nice to see mature adults behaving like mature adults.
So— Tony is The One She Didn’t Marry. The subsequent course of her marriage has made Ellen think more about him than she should, however, and she tells him so here; and that she’s losing her respect for Gar. She’s venting as much as she is sincere, though. Tony, who still cares for her, sees that; and his subsequent declaration of lingering love and the embrace that the two exchange are as much about comfort as anything more serious.
Gar has seen that there’s still a spark between the two, and now he arrives back with Carrie in time to witness this embrace; but he has enough sense (or, perhaps, too little ability to engage with unpleasant reality) to treat it other than lightly.
To be fair to Tony, Ellen is far from the first thing on his mind. Abruptly, he asks Gar if he’s still a good marksman—which makes me wonder if Gar’s medals were supposed to be for that weird sport where you ski cross-country and then shoot at things. (Just biathlon, is it?) Tony then makes Gar promise not to tell anyone what he’s about to say – especially TV reporter Ellen – but is interrupted by Carrie before he can speak, as she detects the worrisome signs of impending confidences.
However, Tony finds another opportunity to talk to Gar later, as the two men wallow in the lodge’s heated pool. We learn that after an alleged (and as it turned out, a hoax) abduction, Ellen did a story on what Gar chooses to call “the Bigfoot controversy”, interviewing people all over the country; so Gar, indirectly, is quite the expert on the subject. A discomforted Tony can only tell him that he saw something; something dangerous, that has to be killed.
Unexpectedly, Gar rises up here in righteous indignation at, as he perceives it, being given a job as a hired gun. There is, however, more than a hint of transference in Gar’s sudden anger with Tony.
Be that as it may, I find this aspect of Snowbeast quite hilarious: the unmistakable sense that having invented a violent, carnivorous hominid (it’s eating it victims, by the way), the film then felt the need to apologise for doing so; or rather, to apologise to Bigfoot.
Gar makes an impassioned speech here, blasting Tony for, as he thinks, believing that something must be killed just because it’s different (I entirely sympathise with Gar’s viewpoint here). However, he then goes on to argue that all those who have had an encounter with Bigfoot say the same thing, that the creature is shy and gentle…which isn’t strictly true, of course, but probably sums up the mid-seventies attitude quite nicely. Ellen, having done her interviews and research, will later make the same argument: that this creature is violent and dangerous, and therefore it cannot be Bigfoot; it’s not that simple, as she delightfully puts it.
Tony loses his temper here and tells Gar all about Jennifer, which gives him pause. It also brings us to the point where our three main male characters have taken up their traditional positions: Tony, having kept quiet for the sake of “the town” and then watched body count rise as a consequence, in the Martin Brody role; Gar, who doesn’t want to kill the Snowbeast but will if he has to, as Matt Hooper; and Sheriff Paraday, called in to examine Jennifer’s mutilated body, as Quint; although truthfully, he’s less Quint because of his determination to kill the Snowbeast (he doesn’t entirely believe in it) than because—well…
On the other hand, it’s Paraday who gets the best line in the film. He has Tony and Gar brought out to the barn to see if the former can identify the remains. A sickened Tony steels himself for the job, asking if he can see the victim’s face—only for Paraday to reply, after a pregnant pause, that she doesn’t have one….
Tony ’fesses up here. Paraday doesn’t declare any outright disbelief in his story, but prefers to embrace Carrie’s suggestion that – HA!! – a grizzly, come out of hibernation, is responsible for the killings. We get perhaps the most wonderful moment in the film here, as Paraday bases his rejection of the Bigfoot theory on the fact that they’re in the wrong geographical area—rather than, you know, on the fact that there’s no such thing as Bigfoot.
Hooper Scott Seberg….. Brody Kelly Rill….. Quint Stober Paraday
And, hey, newsflash, Sheriff: you’re not exactly in the heart of grizzly bear territory, either. The species has recovered somewhat now, I gather, from decades of indiscriminate slaughter, and is sometimes seen in the region; but in 1977 you’d probably have just as much chance of spotting Bigfoot in Colorado as you would of spotting a grizzly.
Anyway, the upshot of this conversation is that in order to avoid a panic, our triumvirate agrees to go with a bear mauling as the official story, while not necessarily believing that’s what actually happened. Paraday proposes that the three of them hunt and kill whatever was responsible; and Gar, having seen Jennifer’s body, reluctantly agrees to be one of the party
Meanwhile, Ellen is out skiing – and skiing – and skiing. Her skiing – and skiing – and skiing – brings her to a spot overlooking the barn; in fact, the same spot from which we got our last Snuffling POV Shot. She gazes down in curiosity at the activity down below, and then notices the trail of footprints in the snow, which she follows – and follows – and follows. By skiing – and skiing – and skiing.
Then she hears roaring noises up in the trees and starts to get panicky. The terrain getting more difficult, she takes off her skis, and starts slogging through the snow – and slogging – and slogging – and slogging. Her slogging finally leads her to the slope that Buster went over…and to the blood patch at its edge…
More roaring noises echo through the trees. Ellen straps her skis back on and skis away – and skis – and skis – and…………………………………………………………………………….
Well, now they’re just taunting me…
Back at the lodge (thank God!), or maybe in “the town”, what looks like a school gymnasium is being set up for the crowning of the “Snow Queen”, aka Betty Jo Blodgett. (Everything about this sequence is just tacky enough to be completely credible. And that has to be the real local high-school band.) Gar, who doesn’t seem to have noticed that Ellen is missing, even though she’s been gone for hours, is on hand to crown the Queen.
And then, cutting to outside, we get a Snuffling POV Shot and a dramatic sting on the musical score.
In a side-room to the main gymnasium area, the Snow Queen is being prepared for her public appearance. Jacquie Botts, in her first and last acting role as Betty Jo Blodgett, gets two big moments here, and is about to make the most of the first of them: upon being encouraged by Carrie Rill to, “Smile, Betty Jo!”, she instead looks past her hostess and screams.
This is our most sustained look at the Snowbeast, which is hilarious in itself, for a reason I shall get into shortly.
A second reason this sequence is hilarious is that, although it starts with the Snowbeast smashing through the window, subsequent shots shows the creature reaching its arms through a window not only intact, but open. I wonder if it was the suit or the stuntman they didn’t want to risk?
As those inside panic and stampede, the Snowbeast is distracted from its OH&S-friendly assault upon the gymnasium by the arrival of Mrs Blodgett, whose timing really, really sucks.
Glimpses #4 – #6.
She’s barely had time to stop her car, mind you, if indeed she did stop it, but naturally it won’t start again. As the Snuffling POV Shot looms up, she can only sit there gaping and riding her car-horn, an action that has exactly the same effect here as it does out in the real world, i.e. it makes a bad situation exponentially worse.
Inside, those stampeding from the side-room set off a blind panic in the main gymnasium. In the midst of this, Carrie Rill is knocked over. I always find this moment a bit disturbing, as Sylvia Sidney does hit the ground here, which is not a good thing in anyone of her age. But, like I said—a trouper. Carrie shows up later with her arm in a sling. Hopefully, it was only the character who got hurt.
Meanwhile, Betty Jo, Snow Queen cape and mouth both flapping in the wind, is running out to her mother’s car. Mrs Blodgett is slumped out the window, and there’s a blood trail down the door. Betty Jo pulls it open. What she sees – what we’re not allowed to see – causes her, in an oddly believable touch, to just give way: she plumps right down in the snow, screaming and sobbing for her mother…
Fade to red.
As Carrie is loaded into an ambulance, she begs Gar to tell Tony she’s sorry. Where is Tony, anyway? Gar returns to his room, and belatedly (we gather) realises that Ellen is missing. Although Tony is also missing for the moment, it doesn’t seem that Gar puts an incorrect construction on it. Instead, he has his Big Emotional Breakthrough. We learn, later on, that Gar hasn’t skied since his Olympic triumph, when he gave it up altogether so as to avoid becoming a has-been—not realising that doing so would just put him on the road to has-been-ville all that much sooner.
Betty Jo is not having a good night…
(What he has been doing all these years remains a mystery.)
Now, however, with Ellen missing, it’s time for Gar to strap on his guns—ah, skis, again; which he does after what we take to be flashbacks to his past glories. Now, I’m no expert, but I wouldn’t have thought that skiing in the middle of the night was a good idea even in an emergency. Luckily, though, it turns out that in Colorado, the moon is almost as bright as the midday sun.
This is (almost) the worst-constructed part of Snowbeast, but we are left to infer that, unable to find her way back to the lodge, Ellen followed the trail of footprints back to the barn and, with night falling, hunkered down there. She wakes at the sound of movement nearby and waits in terror, but of course it’s only Gar who, after skiing – and skiing – and skiing – checks out the barn for no particular reason. (Okay, I guess it is the only thing around resembling shelter.) Recognising her husband, Ellen rushes across and leaps up into his arms—and I do mean leaps: the height difference between Bo Svenson and Yvette Mimieux is quite something to behold.
So, I guess we mark one up for Gar: at least he knows that Ellen would rather see him than a man-eating hominid.
Anyway, the two of them make up properly here. Gar builds a fire and they snuggle down for the night; surrounded by hay, too, just in case they feel like— Well, no: there are probably a few too many clothing layers intervening for that.
It doesn’t like tailgaters, either.
The next morning, as Gar and Ellen doze in the hay, if nothing else, and as a rescue helicopter searches for them (I’ll spare you a later disappointment: there is no helicopter destruction in this film… [*sniff*]), the Snuffling POV Shot starts moving in on the barn. Inside, our lovebirds say their sleepy-smiley good mornings, and then get ready to head out. Gar knocks into a resting ladder on his way across the barn, though, and, in what I remember being a real shock moment during that first early viewing – and what I now recognise as another Grizzly riff – what’s left of poor old Buster drops out of the rafters. First his head. Then the rest of him.
(What’s amusing about this the obvious TV compromise: the more gruesome they want to be, the less bloody they can be. Despite the moment pushing the envelope of what was permissible, you’ll never see a more discreet decapitated body.)
Ellen and Gar barely have time to express their mutual horror, though, as the next instant the Snowbeast is tugging unavailably at the door of the barn. Gar starts banging on the far wall and manages to knock open a section in it. This attracts the Snowbeast; and as it thrusts a clutching hand through the new aperture, Gar and Ellen work on the main door, which is held shut by piled-up snow.
This confrontation happens to coincide with the arrival of the sheriff, one of his deputies, and – oh, hello! – Tony, although they’re on the wrong side of the barn to see the action. Tony goes down to inspect the scene, while the Sheriff scans the surrounding woods through his binoculars…and juuuuust catches a glimpse of something large and hairy hurrying away.
At that moment Gar and Ellen force their way out, and a relieved Tony goes to meet them as the Sheriff and his deputy go after the Snowbeast.
Oh, the moon shines bright, on my Colorado ho-oo-ome…
Back at the lodge, the beaches—I mean, the carnival has been called off. The slopes are empty, the ski lifts still. There is some activity, however: Buster’s funeral, which appears to be taking place on some random patch of ground (!), is climaxed by a five-gun salute (!!), and shows every sign that it will have to be done over, once the thaw sets in (!!!). (Do members of a ski patrol really get a flag draped over their coffins?) Sadly, this is probably the funniest moment in the film. Or maybe it’s just me, and I really should be ashamed of myself.
Oh—and apparently, his name actually was “Buster”.
We have no way of judging the delay between the discovery of the body and the funeral, but as Tony and Gar are just about to go Snowbeast hunting with Paraday, it can’t be that long. Not long enough, in any case, for an inquest. Pity. I’d’ve loved to hear the verdict.
But just as Our Heroes are setting out, there’s a great cry of, The sheriff got it! Shot it right between the eyes! Everyone rushes outside to take a look at what the sheriff has bagged. There’s much cheering and arm-waving and hooting and hollering from those gathered; and as the camera pulls back we see what Paraday has killed; what our series of mutilation-murders is being blamed on…
This is Snowbeast’s “Little Shark” moment, of course. And at least Paraday has the grace to look ashamed of himself.
But what really gets me about this is— Where are all the people who saw the Snowbeast at the gymnasium?? You’d think they’d speak up now, even if they didn’t before—and why would they not have? I can only assume that all those inconvenient witnesses were rounded up as quickly as possible afterwards and then sedated to keep them from talking…which, by the way, is exactly what happened to the unfortunate Heidi.
The other that struck me here was— That’s a black bear, right? (A very small one, but we’ll pass over that.) And the black bear is the dominant ursine in Colorado, right? And black bears kill and maul just as many people as grizzlies, right? So why was a grizzly being blamed in the first place?
But no sooner did that thought occur than I realised how silly I was being. If there’s a bear attack, it has to be blamed on a grizzly; just like if there’s a shark attack, it has to be blamed on a great white.
Some time later, Gar and Ellen corner Paraday, who squirms and shuffles. Gar challenges Paraday, if he’s sure the bear is the killer, to cut it open and see what’s inside. (I can’t imagine where he could have gotten that idea.) Ellen lectures Paraday on his responsibility for the safety of “the town” – adding, “Even if you have to call off the winter carnival”, so maybe they just shut down temporarily for poor Buster’s funeral (which was attended by all of ten people). Paraday asks them what he’s supposed to warn the townspeople about – “A man-beast? A legend?” Amusingly, this conversation takes place about three feet from half-a-dozen of those very townspeople—all, it seems, stricken with convenient deafness.
In the end, Paraday agrees to revert to Plan A, that he, Gar and Tony (and Ellen, who now insists on going) will hunt the thing—chiefly because he’s worried about the prospect of other people believing in “a legend” enough to go out hunting for it themselves, and he wants to head off that possibility. And indeed, Snowbeast is that rare Jaws rip-off that doesn’t have a “morons on the loose” sequence. (They probably couldn’t afford the extras.)
IT’S A KILLER, I TELL YOU!! A KILLER!!!!
So the four of them set out, using a campervan as their base (!), and hunting on snowmobile. Sigh. The first day is fruitless, although we do get a few Snuffling POV Shots and musical stings to let us know that They Are Not Alone. One of the POV shots ends in the ski rack being torn off the back of the campervan. Finding this, the hunters debate moving on, then accept that their quarry must be in their vicinity and decide to stick around and keep watch in pairs. However, even though she insists on taking full watch duty, Ellen still gets stuck with doing the cooking. Typical.
Our big hairy friend kindly waits until the next morning before he makes his move (despite another bright night of glorious Colorado moonlight). Gar is just bringing coffee out to Ellen and Tony when the Snowbeast makes sensible use of a huge stack of smooth and very rollable logs that just happens to be perched up on the nearby hillside. (So with an entire mountain to choose from, they parked their van below a log deposit? That’s not clever even if there isn’t a killer hominid on the loose.) The logs come rumbling down at them and, despite striking the campervan broadside, one of them manages to impale the vehicle at one end, thus trapping and injuring Paraday, who’s the only one inside. The remaining logs jump the van and take out all three snowmobiles, and Tony’s and Ellen’s rifles as well, which I guess they put down in order to drink their coffee.
Those are some logs.
The Snuffling POV Shot lumbers down towards them as Tony dashes in and makes an effort to pull Paraday from the van. He gives up pretty easily, though, and he, Gar and Ellen beat feet, having succeeded only in bringing Paraday back to consciousness just in time for him to see what’s about to happen…
Fade to red.
Glimpses #7 – #9.
Elsewhere, Our Heroes [sic.] find themselves near the barn again and take cover there. They kill some (running-)time, and then Tony announces that what they’re doing is pointless and that he’s heading back. This looks like the set-up for the traditional killing-off of the inconvenient third point in a romantic triangle, but remarkably, Joseph Stefano evidently understood that Tony’s death, although traditional, was entirely unnecessary; so he simply has Gar and Ellen doing what people in these things hardly ever do, namely, declaring that splitting up would be dangerous and stupid, and insisting on sticking with Tony instead.
Of such tiny things is pleasure in a film made.
The trio return to the crushed campervan, grimacing at a bloody patch in the snow. Ellen, being the only one small enough to fit, scrambles in through a window to see if she can find their skis and the spare guns.
I really hope, by the way, that Paraday was dragged out and away by the Snowbeast before being bloodied up—because otherwise Ellen is squatting right in his guts.
Ellen succeeds in rescuing one pair of skis, while Tony remembers the service revolver in the cabin of the vehicle, and goes to retrieve it. He does so just as the Snuffling POV Shot comes snuffling up. He takes one shot at it, hits the creature, fires again, misses, and then tosses the gun to Gar – the marksman, remember? – who also has the only set of skis.
Gar sets out in pursuit, giving us the even more traditional redemption-of-the-flawed-hero sequence.
Throughout the chase that follows we do not get one glimpse of the Snowbeast, just a POV shot that wavers around to remind us that the thing is wounded, and a trail of footprints accompanied by spots of blood.
“Okay, I’m done playing ‘dead sheriff’, who wants to go next?”
We are finally granted one good look at the creature, shoulders up, and a couple of other fleeting ones; but then they ruin it with a piece of glorious silliness when, having drawn attention to the point by (otherwise sensibly) checking how many bullets he has left, Gar proceeds to fire a further five shots from his revolver, on top of the two already fired by Tony.
Even this isn’t enough to put the Snowbeast down, though, and just as well: otherwise, we’d have been robbed of one of the most hysterically bathetic (and cost-effective) monster deaths of all time.
Tony and Ellen have, meanwhile, found two more sets of skis and one rifle, and followed the trails almost to the battleground, where they hear the sound of gunfire. They arrive just in time to see that, out of bullets, and with the wounded and maddened Snuffling POV Shot coming for him, Gar has been driven to desperate measures.
As the Snowbeast closes in on him, Gar whips up one ski pole and braces it against a tree. In its eagerness to get at Gar, the Snowbeast plunges onto it, impaling itself. Gar drives home his advantage, literally, shoving the point of the pole even deeper into the creature, which staggers off, crying out in pain.
Now, you might think this would be an opportunity for a final dramatic scene, not to mention a look at the entire Snowbeast suit, which we’re yet to have; but you’d be wrong on both counts. The Snowbeast’s death is rendered entirely POV, with the handle of the ski pole waving sadly around in the air, until the fatally wounded creature – or so we gather – plunges off the edge of a slope.
Which, by the way, appears to be the same one that the unfortunate Buster Smith fell down earlier. How about that?
By this time, Tony and Ellen have caught up with Gar; and our final shot, noticeably sans Snowbeast, is of the three of them staring down the slope.
In POV, of course…
- Running-time (including credits): 85 minutes, 31 seconds
- Time spent on skiing / snowmobiling / walking through snow: 19 minutes, 0 seconds = 22.2%
- Time the Snowbeast (or a portion thereof) is on-screen: 31 seconds = 0.60% = 22 seconds shorter than the Patterson-Gimlin footage…
Death of a Snowbeast. Honest.
Footnote: As you can tell from the quality of the screenshots, I have not been moved to upgrade my copy of Snowbeast. However, the film has now been released on Blu-Ray (!), through Fred Olen Ray’s Retromedia label. This release includes both this original, 86-minute version and the cut, 77-minute version intended for a 90-minute TV timeslot.
What a time to be alive, huh?
Want another opinion of Snowbeast? Visit 1000 Misspent Hours – And Counting.